Founder & Chairman
Desmond Kuek has had the privilege of leadership at the pinnacles of the corporate world, public sector and military service over a career span of nearly four decades, helming people and organisations through transformative and disruptive times.
He joined UBS AG, the world's largest private bank, in 2019 as Divisional Vice Chairman; and is currently the global head of its Sustainable Finance Group as well as the Head of Sustainable Finance in the Asia Pacific region. He also chairs Optimus Foundation in Singapore, UBS' philanthropic arm.
At SMRT Corporation from 2012-2018, he steered the company on a path of sustainable growth and system renewal, turning the company around in operational performance and service quality. He successfully privatised the company in an effort that was affirmed by Asset Triple-A as the Best Privatisation M&A Deal in 2016. Under his watch, SMRT won numerous human resource, public relations, service excellence and corporate governance awards. He was named “Executive of the Year” by Singapore Business Review in 2016.
As Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Environment & Water Resources from 2010-2012, he spearheaded efforts to enhance Singapore’s high quality of living and environmental sustainability. He also led a whole-of-Government project effort to usher a new wave of public sector transformation to establish a more relational model of governance, forge greater synergy across agencies, and enhance its resilience and capacity to be future-ready.
As Singapore’s sixth Chief of Defence Force from 2007-2010, he led a massive change effort to build an integrated network-enabled capability for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). During his command, he was responsible for overseeing the largest number of multinational operational and humanitarian deployments to date. He is a firm believer in people development and introduced numerous innovative HR schemes that helped to nurture a committed people high in professionalism, pride and morale.
He has served on the boards of Housing & Development Board, International Enterprise Singapore, Jurong Town Corporation, Defence Science & Technology Agency, Civil Service College, Singapore Technologies Engineering and its subsidiaries: and held senior advisory roles with SAP Asia Pacific & Japan, Toyota Tsusho Asia Pacific, SUTD's Lee Kuan Yew Centre for Innovative Cities and NTU's College of Engineering.
Desmond holds a Master of Arts (Engineering Science) from Oxford University and Master in Public Administration from Harvard University, and is an alumnus of IMD Switzerland and the United Kingdom Army Staff College. He also holds a CFA Institute Certificate in ESG Investing. He received his military training in Singapore where he topped the Company and Battalion Tactics courses, and the United States Army Infantry School where he earned the title of Distinguished Allied Leadership Graduate. He was bestowed Datuk Paduka Seri by the Sultan of Brunei and top national awards from France, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States of America for his contributions to defence relations. He was conferred the prestigious Public Administration Medal (Gold) in 2002 and Meritorious Service Medal in 2009 by the Government of Singapore.